Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman


IMG_0232“Writing itself was a magical act in which imagination altered reality and gave form to power.”

This is how Hoffman describes the power found in the writing of women, in this case the Owens women who we first came to know in Practical Magic. That book told the story of Sally and Gillian Owens and how they broke the curse on their family which made it impossible for them to love someone without tragedy. This book goes back two generations before Sally and Gillian, telling the stories of Franny, Jet (the Aunts), and Vincent (the Grandfather).

Hoffman builds a bigger world where there are Owens women and men all over the world, but the nucleus of the family remains on Magnolia Street in Massachusetts. We learn more about Maria Owens, caster of the infamous curse, and how she loved and was betrayed by an equally infamous witch-hunter in the 17th century. The focus here, though, is the three Owens siblings – Franny, Jet, and Vincent – and their lives in New York City through the 1950s-1960’s.

When we first meet the trio, they have no idea they’re witches. Their parents have kept the knowledge from them, trying to ensure they will live normal lives. Franny is the scientist, Jet the poet, and Vincent the musician. While their lives seem normal enough, they all know there is something different and special about themselves and their family. Exactly what that specialness is comes to light when they go to Massachusetts to spend the summer with Aunt Isabelle, when they learn about their magical heritage. They spend the next two decades experiencing great tragedy, running away from love, and participating in the major events of the time – Stonewall, Vietnam, the Summer of Love. Hoffman neatly connects Rules of Magic with Practical Magic at the very end, and I was left thinking about who will be cast in the film that will surely follow.

All the usual things a reader expects from Alice Hoffman are here – lovely writing, strong female characters, a solid and engaging story – so this will definitely be one of the hot books this Fall. I enjoyed learning about the Owens family history, and found the primary trio of characters both charming and exasperating. This was an advanced review copy, so I am sure there will be some editing, which is needed. There are parts of the story which could move a little faster, and I think the ages for Sally & Gillian at the end are too young for their behavior and language, but those are nit-picky things that truly don’t affect the readability factor of this wonderful story. It’s not necessary to have read (or to re-read) Practical Magic before you read this one, but I guarantee you will want to read it after you finish.

Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Published by Simon & Schuster
Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced review copy